It feels right for me to be finally be honest with you all about this past year. Most of 2012 was not wonderful. It was merely surviving and going through routine daily tasks as if stuck in some sort of horrible Groundhog Day setup.
Anyone who knows me will recognize that I deal with everything with a sense of humor. All struggles, victories, and mundane daily tasks are met by me with sarcasm and finding a way to make light of the situation. This post isn’t written with that natural outlook of mine as it is written with some brutal honesty about my past year. It has not all been wonderful. Obviously everyone has bad days and struggles with the repetitive part of daily life, but there is a difference between bad days and dark days, and this year was full of dark days for me.
Most days I felt like I was drowning. I haven’t even been able to make sense of it all to put in to words eloquently enough to write this post. It has been months that I have been struggling to just type out my feelings, so perhaps just making simple sentences in a list form will be enough to express how 2012 has been for me and us as a family.
I am still finding ways to compose this, but what I have learned over the past year is that we are all not alone in our struggles, though it can feel very much so at times.
Having a baby is a life-changing event, obviously, but no one talks about truly hard it can be. And exhausting. And overwhelmingly emotionally draining. And the toll it can take on your marriage in the first year. Announce your pregnancy to any one of your friends who are parents and you will hear, “OH, that’s so exciting! You will never sleep again!” But it is all said in jest and not as a true “you should expect this” type of talk. I struggle with this now with friends who have been pregnant. I think people should know what is ahead so they know what to expect and that they are not at all alone if they have a hard time. On the flip side though, the first pregnancy is naive and fun and dreamy in a way because you have all of these visions and goals and expectations. Who wants to be the bubble-popper of a friend who is glowingly pregnant? It’s hard.
It is incredible the ways these little babies can flip our whole boat upside down and it’s up to us to figure out how to best not drown, because that’s the only way I can describe the majority of this first year–that I felt like I was completely drowning. I’m a good swimmer, but I couldn’t seem to find the edge of the pool or the stairs to catch my breath. It has felt like the longest ladder workout of my life, if the ladder was that staircase M.C. Escher painting. (That was a bit of swimming humor.)
It took me nine months to seek help for postpartum therapy. Nine months of sobbing uncontrollably on my hour-long drive to work each day. Nine months of feeling worthless as a mother. Nine months of feeling like I couldn’t do anything right. Nine months of not being happy with our childcare provider. Nine months of not sleeping more than a 5-hour stretch maybe twice a month. Nine months before I told my husband that I just couldn’t do it anymore. Any of it. I slept in the basement for three weeks in September. Three weeks. My original goal was three nights, but I wasn’t feeling better after each night. At the end of week two, I was sitting around on a Sunday afternoon playing with my son and I felt something I hadn’t felt in over a year (I had an emotionally rough pregnancy, too)–I felt happiness. I felt grateful for this little boy. I felt overwhelmingly grateful for our son. It took me nine months to feel grateful and it will take me a lifetime to not feel horrible for waiting nine months to feel that way about him and our life. Our marriage is still fragile. We still love each other. We do not have family nearby so the option to take a couple of hours to ourselves is not there yet and we haven’t begun a search for a babysitter. We have been out by ourselves three times this year. But things are looking up. Way up.
One of the best decisions we made this year was to change childcare providers. We had numerous complaints and issues with our first center. When our son was ten months old we enrolled him in another center. The first afternoon that I picked him up from his new center, he was happy and content and playing with the other infants. I cried all evening, for the past eight months he was in daycare, he had cried and reached for us immediately upon arriving and we thought that must have been just normal infant behavior. Separation anxiety. But it wasn’t. He wasn’t happy there either. It was devastating. It was also well documented as they even had a photo of his class on their wall, with all the babies looking fine and our son crying his eyes out. It was, and is, heartbreaking. But I am focusing on the positive changes and how amazing he has adapted and changed since switching programs. This change was instrumental in my emotional health as well and there have been significantly fewer days in which I have sobbed my eyes out on my commute. It is an amazing feeling of relief to trust your childcare provider. Being a working mom is incredibly difficult enough without trusting that your child is happy during the time you are apart. I cannot stress this change enough in being positive for my health.
The year 2013 is going to bring a lot of changes to our lives and I have immense faith in our family becoming stronger. I hope to share more of my struggles with you all even as I try to process them, rather than after the effect, because if there is one thing I have learned this year is that we are not alone. Whenever I picked up a phone to call a friend who is a mom, they would reassure me that it was all normal. Or, even if it wasn’t normal and felt completely insane, they were going through it too. I am incredibly grateful for my group of mom friends who have helped pull me out of the water this year. And my family.
I am on Instagram, sharing my daily life, as the username: littlebrimbaby. I love the connections that have been made through Instagram and all of the positive peeks in to everyone else’s life. It has been provided me with a wonderful sense of community and happiness over the past year. I thank you all here at Little Brim Baby, too. I have such great goals for this website and hope you will all continue sharing your comments here and more.
Best wishes for a happy and emotionally grounded 2013 for you all!